A Dirge for Steam and Gears

There aren’t any trains anymore. Not really. Sure, sometimes you have to stop and wait for a diesel engine pulling a long line of box cars to go by at the railroad crossing, but it’s not the same.

I used to dream about trains. Not when I was asleep, but sharp vivid day dreams where the age of steam came alive again. All of that was before my time of course. I can’t tell you what it might have felt like to ride in a red caboose, to watch the line of passenger cars snaking out in front of you, with the engine at the front billowing its smokey sooty prayers up into the sky. But sometimes if I close my eyes I can go back to that time, if only in my imagination.

I’ve heard of men born ahead of their time, but sometimes I feel like I was born past mine. I walk past clocks and check to see if they are driven by gears and springs or if they tick at the behest of cold and impeccably accurate quartz. My gaze lingers on battered old Victrola’s in the antique shop, and I imagine sitting down with my family and listening to the music, warm and scratchy like a checked flannel shirt. But all I can do is imagine.

Because I’m trapped here in the digital age, an age of wonders that the men who built the world of gears and steam and the unholy crackle of electricity could never have dared to hope for. I am not foolish enough to believe that the world was perfect then, but I am perhaps wise enough to understand that it is not perfect now.

And yet here I sit, collecting stolen memories of that time so close and yet so far away, dreaming of a boy dreaming of me, aching to see the silver-spired future.

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